A Tale of Tarps – A Water Monkey Progression

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Gear Reviews, Hammock Camping

Ok you filthy animals. Let’s talk tarps. Over the past 3 years I’ve been cycling through a series of tarps ranging from different sizes to different materials looking for that ONE tarp to rule them all. Well I haven’t exactly found that ONE tarp but I have zeroed in on what I need for 3 season and winter season.

Now I will stress that a tarp is a mere personal choice based on exactly what YOU are looking for as far as coverage, weight and price. This is just my personal preferences and my Pros and Cons of each that I have noticed:

Warbonnet Superfly (Silnylon):

This was my first tarp. This thing is huge at 132″ long and 125″ wide (back then). This thing is like a palace. I’ve tested it on my first trek on the Appalachian Trail in NY in a wet windy mountain top and in my first winter hike in the same area.

The version in the video is no longer available. Brandon at Warbonnet Outdoors now makes the doors integrated with the tarp so there will be ZERO gaps on the sides now. Also the size has been changed to mirror the Big Mamajamba tarp.

HERE’S VIDEO – SUPERFLY AT 1:50 OF THE VIDEO

Pros:

Coverage – serious coverage which was great for a noob who was unsure on how hammocks could be effected by the weather.

Packs Down – wow for that much tarp it really didnt take too much real estate in my pack!

Cons:

Heavy – with the doors came in at almost 25 oz. When I was looking to shave weight this was one of the first areas I ended up attacking.

Doors w/snaps – Left gaps and some air got in. Also, in the deep winter putting snaps on the door proved tough with the loss of fine motor skills.

Stretch – silnylon stretches. Especially in wet weather and definitely when it was snowed on. I didn’t like that so I went looking for a tarp with little to no stretching.

OES MacCat Deluxe Tarp (SpinnUL):

On my quest to hit below 10 lbs on my base weight I decided to get a smaller tarp for 3 season trips. I ended up choosing this tarp which runs at 130″ long and 104″ wide. Not only did the size of the tarp save weight I went with the (at the time) new age material called SpinnUL or Spinnex. This material is what is used for sails for the sailing community.

I tested this tarp on a 5 day adventure on the Appalachian Trail and encountered some serious wet weather storms. To my total surprise each encounter left me bone dry as well as my gear underneath my tarp. This size basically sold me going down my tarp adventure road.

HERE’S A VIDEO OF THE OES MACCAT DELUXE TARP:

Pros:

Weight – boy this stuff was light at 10 oz. It shaved 15 oz (yeah almost a pound) on my current tarp set up.

Less Coverage – Less coverage but still kept me dry. The notion of a huge tarp to keep me safe was quickly fading away.

No Stretching – This material does not stretch like Silnylon does.

Cons:

Not that compact – It basically takes up twice the space the same sized tarp would in silnylon

Noisy – Damn this thing crinkles! Can you tell from the video? When rain hits it, it sounds pretty loud too.

Possible Durability Issue – After I had bought the tarp I noticed that some people have had issues of acorns hitting the tarp and tearing the fabric. I never experienced this but it got me looking for a new material…. well mainly the way it compacts but the durability pushed me over the edge.

Warbonnet Big Mamajamba Tarp (SpinnUL):

I wanted to cut some weight for the winter tarp and going with a smaller tarp than the Superfly the Mamajamba runs 132 inches long and 120 inches wide. At this point Brandon at Warbonnet Outdoors changed the way the doors were placed on. Instead of buttons he used bungee cords and mini clips. This eliminated the gap problem I had with the Superfly.

I tested this tarp out during my first snow shoeing adventure which got down to the mid 20’s F. Turned out to be a great sized tarp for the winter.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF THE BIG MAMAJAMBA TARP:

Pros:

Weight – Much less weight than the Superfly at 13 oz and offered almost the same amount of coverage.

Cons:

Durability – As stated before there was a durability issue but I didnt experience this.

Clipping the Doors – Still a problem with fine motor skills and takes a while to get the doors on because your hands freeze up in the winter winds. Next winter tarp will have integrated doors.

Not That Compact – Wow I thought the OES Deluxe didnt pack well… this thing packs down BIG. I couldn’t fit it in my pack I had to place it on the outside compartment so I could stuff my food in my pack.

Noisy – goes without saying…

No Side Tie Outs – This thing really needed side tie outs with the size of it. I ended up using grip clips but they were a pain to get them where I wanted them. Later on Brandon offered this type of tarp with a custom side tie out so ask and ye shall receive.

Cat Cut – The cat cut on the bottom is used to make the tarp pitch tight with little effort. The only problem is that this leaves a significant gap. The winter winds snuck in from the bottom and robbed me of some warmth with a strong wind. Next winter tarp… no cat cut on the bottom.

ZPacks Hammock Tarp (Cuben Fiber):

OK so now we are in the end of 2010 and some vendors started offering cuben fiber tarps for hammocks (need a longer and wider tarp for hammock camping). This stuff was expensive BUT I had some money saved up. I ended up snagging a cuben tarp from a forum member at Hammock forums at a decent price. This tarp runs 132 inches long and 102 inches wide.

I used this tarp on a 3 day adventure across Long Island thru hiking the Greenbelt Trail. No rain but this thing was HUGE for the little amount of weight.

HERE’S A VIDEO OF THE ZPACKS HAMMOCK TARP

Pros:

Pack Size – Oh my god this thing packs down to half the size of a silnylon tarp. I could stuff this damn thing anywhere!

Weight – It weighs literally half the weight of a SpinnUL tarp of equal size. No it really does. The OES MacCat Deluxe in Spinn weighs 10 oz.. this thing weighs in at 5.0 oz. It was awesome!

Cons:

Durability Issue – There seems to be a durability concern with cuben tarps that are sewn rather than bonded. Sewing weakens the material and can come apart. I did notice that where this tarp was not reinforced it was coming apart. I had to reinforce the areas with special cuben fiber tape. Bit of a pain and added some weight to it.

Cost – Cuben Fiber is selling at crack prices. This tarp cost me $250 from a forum member. A similar tarp would cost $120 for silnylon. I had to whore myself on a corner for a few weeks to cover this.

Seam Sealing required – Because the tarp was sewn it required to be seam sealed. I suck at seam sealing so that wasn’t a fun adventure.

OES MacCat Deluxe (Cuben Fiber):

OK I really loved the design of the MacCat Deluxe tarp. I found out that Brian over at OES would offer a cuben version at special request I jumped at the offer. Took a while but I finally got this bad boy. Best thing is that it is bonded therefore no seam sealing for this monkey! Plus I wanted something more earth toned (green or brown) and OES was offering it in green.

I used this tarp exclusively for my Charity Hike in June 2011 and it worked out as the other Deluxe did… with flying colors

HERE’S A VIDEO OF THE MACCAT DELUXE (CUBEN):

Pros:

Seam Sealing – You dont have to! Nuff Said

Cons:

Weight – As far as cuben tarps are this was heavier than my Zpacks tarp at 6.0 oz . This is primarily because Brian at OES uses thick D rings at each tie out area where as Joe at Zpacks does not and also Brian uses a thicker cuben fiber material.

Size – The Zpacks tarp felt like it had more coverage than the OES Deluxe Cuben. But, as I said before, this had no bearing on the actual testing this tarp has gone through. Still bone dry after a huge rain storm during my hike.

Hammock Gear Winter Palace (Cuben):

Having great results from 2 cuben tarps I wanted a winter version. I contacted Adam & Jenny over at Hammock Gear to produce me a modified version of their existing cuben tarp to be 132 inches long and 126 inches wide with integrated doors. Total weight is at 9.2 oz.

Well there you have it… The Water Monkey has been pimping some really great tarps and has many successes and minor annoyances with each. Hope this helps you out in your future tarp choices.

Stay Gangsta,

Water Monkey

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Comments
  1. This is great!
    Not only do you cover pretty much all of the tarps, but you have video visuals to go along with it.

    I am really looking forward to when you get your cuben tarp from Hammockgear. Being that there is no sewing and they use a lighter fabric, I’m sure you are going to have a new favorite.

    Thanks for the article.

    Fronkey

    • Awesome Glad you liked it! Wanted something which shows all my current and previous tarps to give some people a better hold on what they might be looking for in a hammock tarp.

  2. Claire says:

    Great read & good visuals!
    For anyone looking for a hammock tarp this is a must read!

  3. Arok says:

    Great article! Keep it up, My wife want let me drop that kind of dime on tarps. I have to stick with DIY. But that Winter Palace looks like a great, can’t wait to see the video.

  4. STinGa says:

    WM,

    Thanks for this compilation of tarp vids. Having the different types in one spot is just what I need to prep me for my next up grade.

    STinGa

  5. Steve says:

    Thats for the info. I’m going down the trail of haveing a 3s and a winter tarp.
    I also a Issue with Durability. If I’m going to put out that kind of buck-os for gear
    I want to get some long time use out of it(years not weeks) before I have to replace it.
    Triggerhpy

  6. trey.porter says:

    WM, great reviews of an intense evolution. You have no doubt dropped a few dimes on tarps. I love the fact that so many tarp makers will customize. I think you have a WBBB… Have you ever considered a tarp that assym at the ridge line? I was thinking of having one side be 4.5′ and the other be more like 7′. The 7′ side would be the “dismount” side of the hammock, where we all spend 95% of the time (cooking,etc.). The short side could be tied pretty much to the ground at nearly vertical (side tieouts probably not needed). The doors would have to be sized accordingly. Most hammocks have a “dismount” side and I feel like having so much coverage on the minor side is wasted. Anxious to hear your thoughts. -Trey

    • Hey Trey,

      Sorry for the really late response. Getting married really took up a lot of my time.

      I like your idea a lot. However I wonder how it would hold up during a real nasty storm. I’ve been through a few and can say I was happy with the extra coverage on the passive side.

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